Why a high bounce rate is like throwing a bad party
The very first question we get asked in workshops is about bounce rate. It seems that when discussing the performance of a website, the easiest metric to gravitate to in Google Analytics is bounce rate. There are pros and cons to high bounce rates, but a high bounce rate feels like the equivalent of wasting many hours organizing a party only to have people arrive at said party and say, “This party stinks – I’m leaving”. If the bounce rate on your website is 70% or greater, you may be throwing a bad party.
Bounce rate defined: the percentage of single-page visitors who only view one page on your site and then leave.
According to Google, there are a number of factors that contribute to a high bounce rate. For example, users might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, users might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in going to other pages.
But at Marketing CoPilot, we see other problems associated with bounce rate that are causing companies lots of grief with respect to how well their lead generation and lead nurturing programs are performing. Imagine if you planned a formal gala, but forgot to explain to the majority of guests that black tie was required. When people arrive in jeans, the first response would be, “This party is not for me”. Similarly, when you optimize your website with content that does not speak to your customers or prospects, you’re throwing the wrong party for your best guests.
Three reasons (we often see) for a high bounce rate
1. Your home page is confusing
You’ve succeeded in attracting someone to your site and they hit the home page first, but they get confused when they start going through your home page. The information is presented in a way that makes it difficult for the visitor to process, there’s too much information (images, videos, text) and they can’t find what they are looking for quickly. People want to find information or better yet, be presented with information instantaneously. Don’t waste their time and make it hard for them to get the information they need or they will leave.
Your home page needs to orient the visitor as soon as they get there. They need to know where they are, what they can do on the site and why they should buy from you. The visitor needs different chunks of information at each stage in the buying process, in order to make a buying decision. Give them the information they need, when they need it; present the content, so that it follows the order of the buying process. Don’t just throw out all of the information you have to offer on the home page. Picture a person walking into a car dealership and you’re the sales person. Would you greet them by telling them about all of the cars you have in stock, all of their features and your current financing rate or would you ask them what they were looking for and then provide information based on the prospect’s cues?
2. Your value proposition is unclear
Keep in mind that a value proposition (why someone should buy from you instead of a competitor) is not the same as a tagline, mission statement or an explanation of what your company does. It is not determined, it is discovered as a result of getting to know the needs of your customers and the value they derive from your product or service.
Your value proposition has not been articulated in a clear and concise manner, it’s not obvious enough because it isn’t front and center and/or it is not supported/re-articulated throughout the site. Visitors won’t get it if you just state your value proposition once. You need to say it in many different ways, on many different pages throughout your entire site. Your value proposition should be the foundation of your site content.
3. Your value proposition is not compelling
Your value proposition is not resonating with your visitors. Why? For one of two reasons, you have the right message, but wrong audience or vice versa.
Right value proposition, wrong audience
You may have the right value proposition for your intended target audience, but your site is not attracting the right traffic, so when your site tells visitors why they should buy from you, they say to themselves, “This isn’t what I need” and leave the site without exploring the site any further.
So say for instance that your intention was to attract people who influence or make decisions on which enterprise-wide software to purchase for their large company, but instead your site ends up attracting small business owners. Your site is attracting the wrong traffic either because there isn’t enough of the right content and/or your content is not in line with your keyword strategy, hence is not optimized to attract the right traffic – in this case, influencers and decision-makers in large companies.
Right audience, wrong value proposition
This is the reverse scenario; your site is attracting the right traffic, but your value proposition is wrong. Why they should buy from you is not compelling enough for them to stay on the site i.e. move further into the buying process. They digest your value proposition and say to themselves, “This is the same as what I have now and the same as what everyone else is offering. We might as well stay with what we have, headaches and all. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” Then they bounce or leave your site after viewing only one page. You succeeded in bringing the visitors to your site, but you didn’t succeed in keeping them on the site long enough to convert or want to come back because you didn’t give them a good enough why.
It’s important to look at your site’s average bounce rate for the last 6 months to a year, look at the changes month over month, then drill down deeper, look at the bounce rate for your most viewed pages, and pay special attention to your home page.
If the bounce rate of your home page is higher than most pages, is driving the average bounce rate up and/or is over 55%, there might be a problem. HubSpot published an infographic with benchmarks for bounce rate depending on the content of your pages and the goal of your pages. Assuming Google Analytics tracking codes have been correctly installed throughout your site, your bounce rate can likely be attributed to one or more of the reasons listed above.